Monday, August 13, 2012
Dial Books, 2012
Source: Picked up from library to review
I remember when I first read Graceling and Fire. It was actually back to back over spring break in 2010 (hence the quality of the reviews-I didn't really know what I was doing!) And since then I have been eagerly anticipating another story from Cashore with my wish finally fulfilled with this release, picking up approximately nine years later with one of the important characters from Graceling.
Thus this review is really hard to write because I did not love Bitterblue the way I anticipated. I think I have narrowed it down to a couple of main reasons why.
1. One big reason was my inability to connect with the characters. I think this might be partly intentional as the characters themselves are in deep psychological pain. It has been eight years since the death of Bitterblue's cruel father King Leck who used his Grace to manipulate everyone's minds. They aren't always in their right minds and many are haunted by the actions he made them take. Queen Bitterblue wants to be a good queen but due to her youth, she is not always able to assert herself and is often looking to her advisers for what she should do next.
2. I also had some general confusion about all of the lies, of who wanted what and who knew what when. Again this is understandable due to the havoc wreaked by Leck but it was difficult for this reader to parse all of the lies, cover-ups, and conspiracies.
3. Another big piece of the lacking was the romance. Bitterblue (another problem was that I kept wanting to call her Butterblue) wants to know more about her kingdom so she starts sneaking out at night, meeting two honorable thieves. She falls for Sapphire (whose name sounds like a girl's name) and I just did not like him. I much preferred his friend Teddy. Thus any time Bitterblue swooned for him, I questioned her judgment. Sapphire spends much of the book being a jerk-why does she like him again?
It's not all bad; there were still a lot of good points. Cashore is an amazing writer and despite the length of this book, it moves fairly quickly. It's definitely a big time commitment but there are quite a few things to really enjoy.
1. One was the character Death (rhymes with teeth) who is the court librarian, loves cats, and has the ability to remember everything he's ever read. He's a new character but one I really enjoyed meeting.
2. There are a lot of extras in the back of the book such as maps, which help the reader keep track of where characters are located in every scene. I've read some other fantasies that did not include maps and I was grateful that this book included them.
3. There are some really cool examples of ciphering and codes in this book. I particularly loved Bitterblue's discovery of some codes from her parents. I can't share too much without spoiling something.
One note: Bitterblue is billed as a standalone on the jacket flap but I would not recommend that. I would say you'd need to read at least Graceling in order for this book to make sense and it wouldn't hurt to read Fire as well beforehand.